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Lady Snowblood Part 2

Writer: Kazuo Koike
Artist: Kazuo Kamimura
Anime on DVD, February 2006

Our favorite, and legendary, femme fatale is back with more sex, more violence, and more cold-blooded vengeance!

Packaging: Finally a Koike title from Dark Horse that isn't flipped! This volume is packaged in a slightly smaller B6, with not quite as much content this time around (60 pages less than #1). Dark Horse is using the same format as the 2004 Koike Shoin editions that were released in 2004 in order to ride the momentum of Kill Bill when it was released in Japan. In fact, the cover art is the same as the Japanese release which features Kill Bill style lettering and colors with a great illustration of Yuki. This title was shrink-wrapped with a Parental Advisory stick on the cover itself. The print reproduction is solid, especially given the age of the source material. There is a tiny bit of blotchiness with some grey tones, but overall it looks very nice.

Art: Kamimura's artwork is very much an older style, but it's wonderfully detailed work. Yuki's designs are very elegant and pure, with her revenge-filled eyes giving me the chills. He perfectly illustrates her character to match her tragic story. On the flipside, most of the men are very grotesque which does fit the content quite well, as most of the men are sexually aggressive towards Yuki. There is a lot of sex and violence in this story, all of which is handled in poetic fashion. The panel layouts and direction are also quite cinematic at times.

Text/SFX: The SFX are translated and subbed next to the originals. The subbing job is great, small text mimics the original and never feels like it is cluttering the panels. In panel text is usually translated with boxed overlays. The translation reads very smooth, harsh in tone when it needs to be, with a glossary in the back that helps explain a lot of the cultural terms.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead): Yuki Kashima was born as a child from hell, saddled with the burden of the Kashima family's thirst for revenge. With three of the four targets still alive, Yuki travels across Japan looking for clues and assistance into finally lifting the weight of vengeance off of her shoulders. Will the lifetime of training and isolation pay off when Yuki tracks down one of the remaining three? And in what way is the revenge best served?

With this second volume of Lady Snowblood, Yuki finally gets to enact her revenge on Okono Kitahama, who is now living in Osaka and is the head of a shady "kyosai" business. However, finding out this piece of information was not easy and required a bit of sacrifice and another overly complex, yet well put together plot by Yuki. She makes a deal with a group of vagrants to obtain a "hojicho," a registry of the dead that is kept at the temples. Yuki doesn't just simply walk in and steal one of these, that would just be too simple for her. Instead she disguises herself as the nun Setsugetsuni and visits a family whose daughter has fallen terminally ill with consumption (now known as pulmonary tuberculosis) where she will attempt to make her well by using sand prayers and tantric rituals. As we soon find out though, Yuki is not there to see the daughter get well, but rather will use her sexual influences to lead the daughter to her final bell toll.

Yes, in case you haven't figured it out yet, Lady Snowblood is quite the sexual title. There is death by cunnilingus (not a bad way to go, eh?), a randomly inserted scene of "masunoura" (female masturbation), and a threat made to Yuki by a well-endowed, throbbing male member. Yuki is actually threatened with sexual assault on a few occasions, from which she usually comes out unscathed while her assailants kiss the dirt. The sexual tones can feel a bit overdone at times, but in a way it does help illustrate all the pressures against Yuki in this time of male dominance as well as just how emotionally unattached Yuki is from her surroundings.

When Yuki finally gets to let loose her family's revenge on Okono, it is extravagantly executed. Why just sneak in while your target is sleeping and chop off her head? It's all about watching your target slowly bleed to death, giving back the pain that you felt a hundred times over. I don't want to spill Yuki's plans, but she puts together a revenge that will last longer than just this volume. The end result is possibly convoluted and a little anti-climatic, but it is enjoyable seeing a more creative way to get revenge other than just a bloodbath.

Yuki's character is also further developed during a flashback to her harsh days of training with a monk, whose methods were extreme and painful. But it was through this training that Yuki become that cold-blooded vessel of revenge. The barrel rolling technique was a riot, which made it even more enjoyable when you actually saw the benefits of such training in action later on. Ah, the taste of sweet revenge; best served cold with a convoluted scheme that will leave your target in agony and a slow death. Featuring only one stand-alone story this time around, the second volume of Lady Snowblood follows a much more linear path as Yuki finds one of the three remaining targets and webs together her plans for vengeance. It's sexual, violent, and of course, cold-blooded. Would you want revenge any other way?

I definitely enjoy the story of Yuki, but there are a few things that may bother potential readers. It's very sexual, sometimes to the point of exploitation, which for me is something that I've never taken literally. I think it just helps illustrate how detached Yuki is from everything around her, as well as how much she'll sacrifice for her family's wish for revenge. Some of the schemes that Yuki puts together are also a little too extravagant, with easier methods obviously apparent, but that is part of the charm of the title. Don't just simply kill off your enemies; make them suffer a 100 times over!

Solid production all around by Dark Horse and I'm definitely enjoying the release of this classic Kazuo Koike title. (Jarred Pine)

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